Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

Comment Archives for Lorcan Mullen

I'm a trainee/ freelance journalist and ex-student union officer.
  1. Comment on Give us your suggestions for an Xmas reading list?
    on 24 December 2011 at 1:37 am


    ‘Cannery Row’, good shout!

    Read ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ recently, and Orwell’s ‘Down and Out In Paris’ – important, deeply humane depictions of poverty, inequality & displacement, worth revisiting in this climate!

    Nick Shaxson’s ‘Treasure Islands’ and Shiv Malik’s ‘Jilted Generation’ were also a real treat this year. And if you’re looking for a funny, wise novel about Tory power, I really recommend Jonathan Coe’s ‘What A Carve Up!’

    Also, with the US primaries hotting up, ‘Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail 72′ (Hunter S. Thompson) and Joan Didion’s ‘Insider Baseball’ (you can read it here: are required reading, puncturing the artifice, inhumanity and self-sustaining inanities of virtually all the main players/ the mainstream media commentary.

    I’m looking forward to some Paul Mason, Orwell and Zizek under the tree!

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  2. Comment on Dissent and devolution; notes on the Unison strike
    on 7 October 2011 at 9:50 pm


    I don’t think I’m taking anything apart. By the way, I’m not a student and I’m not involved with the student unions anymore, nor particularly fond of their work. I’m not taking sides, just trying to report and analyse as best I can.

    “that we have to engage in an alternative pedagogical process that precedes the change we wish to see in education. We can’t win on a legal-political basis alone, we have to do ideological battle also and confront the neo-liberal narrative with one of the common good, and of education as an inherently political field. That involves working through and outside the SUs; of a tactical mixture of direct action, popular mobilisation, intellectual critique; as well as the more basic and equally important practical tasks you’ve highlighted.”

    I agree with that analysis, but remember, this is almost a year since Browne. I think FEE and other groups campaigning against austerity measures are struggling to focus their campaigns and gain traction, even when many of their underlying analyses have been proven quite unequivocally right since 2007. The article just points out that devolution exacerbates this problem.

    I was a union officer, and I’m proud of the work I did there, but I’m an awful lot more ambivalent about the work of the student unions, and an awful lot less hostile to FEE/NISA than some might tell you. I did a lot to make sure they got a hearing and were kept involved last year in spite of frequent, quite intense disagreements. My hunch is that this ‘movement’ will remain ‘embryonic’. I’d be pleased to be proved wrong.

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  3. Comment on A primer on the Eurozone crisis & thread for recommended reading
    on 20 September 2011 at 12:42 am


    I agree.


    I phrased that section clumsily. I mean lower tax receipts due to depressed economic activity due to depressed demand due to job losses, wage freezes, some of the tax rises, low investor confidence due to ‘talking down’, corporate cash-piling etc.

    “So, rather obviously, ‘austerity measures’ cannot assist economic recovery.” I agree completely. But elite opinion continues to suggest growth will come from the ‘credibility’ or ‘stability’ austerity brings. So that means I’m allowed to complain about it.

    I’m sure a well-engineered stimulus package can still work in an open economy (one based on direct job creation and investment rather than tax cuts / incentives to consume foreign-made products.) A well engineered, EU-wide stimulus could find ways of investing in key industries across all states in a complimentary way. (Of course that presupposes a competent EU…hmmm)

    Pete Baker,

    there’s no accounting for taste! Got anything to add to the reading list?

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  4. Comment on A primer on the Eurozone crisis & thread for recommended reading
    on 19 September 2011 at 11:43 pm

    Thanks for commenting.

    Cynic2, I’m afraid I don’t know much about currency transitions, but I’ll have a read around. I imagine national pride and distrust of outside monetary control would rule out full adoption of Sterling. Pegging would seem more likely. As far as I know, that would take a lot of foreign currency reserves to keep the exchange rate stable.

    Greenflag, Geithner has an awful lot to answer for, but he’s at least pointing out the madness of continuing, counter-productive austerity measures. I think the issues of poverty are less to do with the bailouts, and more to do with the lack of protection for US industry, the lack of any sort of industrial policy, grotesque levels of income / asset inequality etc etc All this pre-dates Geithner and the Obama administration. Their hands are tied now, due to Republican/Tea Party control of Congress, but they were of course very, very craven and unambitious when dealing with the real economy beyond Wall St, when they had the chance. And aye – Mason had an excellent report on the collapse of the social contract in Greece a while back, with the middle class angrier than the vulnerable. Noticeable nationalist element to big protests + collapse in social contract + generals worried about cuts to enormous ‘defence’ spending + the right-wing opposition flipping to austerity-scepticism all bodes badly.

    I’ll put up another post discussing austerity, along with more links, tonight or tomorrow.

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  5. Comment on A primer on the Eurozone crisis & thread for recommended reading
    on 19 September 2011 at 4:32 am

    Wolfgang Munchau in the FT on the legal obstacles to a bigger, more permanent bailout mechanism / Eurobonds:

    Recent guest of Sinn Fein Yannis Varoufakis with more detail on Greece:

    And finally, for a flavour of what the German media is saying:,1518,785690-2,00.html

    (the entire English Spiegel site is well worth visiting.)

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  6. Comment on A primer on the Eurozone crisis & thread for recommended reading
    on 19 September 2011 at 4:24 am

    A breakdown of where Greek, Irish and Portuguese debt is held:

    Here’s a nice succinct BBC summary of the main dilemmas for the leaders:

    Info on Merkel’s dodgy position at home:

    A short and sweet insight into the Bavarian CSU’s thoughts on Greece:
    (Merkel is struggling to keep her CDU’s sister party on board)

    A decent general report from the Economist:

    A slightly out of date Paul Mason blog on Eurozone break-up:

    (I think Mason’s the best big-picture reporter on this, and his Twitter is well worth following.)

    Longer reads:

    George Soros on potential solutions (NY Review of Books):

    Paul De Grauwe on the EZ’s inherent structural/governance problems:

    And of course, the last Slugger essay on the subject, chock-full of interesting links:

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  7. Comment on The riots, the ‘sick society’ and modern conservatism
    on 19 August 2011 at 12:52 am

    @ Reader

    no, I think people with criminal convictions are perfectly capable of standing for political office.

    On the one hand, our criminal justice system is ostensibly based on rehabilitation and constructive jailing. It would be silly to design a system where people are supposed to become ‘normal’ citizens at the end of the process, but are then permanently stripped of some fundamental aspects of political citizenship. Our freedom to be voted for is as fundamental as our right to vote. This is even before we get to arguments about permanent exclusion from formal politics (no SF leadership within formal politics would have been a serious brake on the path to peace, probably) or those who face convictions for legitimate direct action.

    In bringing up the Cameron and Clegg cases, I suppose I was condemning their hypocrisy in embracing the ‘simple criminality’ line. They could be (justifiably) condemnatory, but still look for and solve the underlying issues. That would be real leadership.

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  8. Comment on The riots, the ‘sick society’ and modern conservatism
    on 18 August 2011 at 7:25 pm

    Grand, I will do. One horribly trite piece on the economy to come first though :)

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  9. Comment on The riots, the ‘sick society’ and modern conservatism
    on 18 August 2011 at 7:07 pm

    Awk Field Marshal. You make that sound like a bad thing. What sort of stuff are you into? I’m open to suggestions.

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  10. Comment on The politics of unreality (and the very real cost)
    on 28 July 2011 at 12:48 am

    I should clarify; the decision to eradicate the deficit over one parliament not ‘the decision to repay it’ (ie, the debt)

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  11. Comment on The politics of unreality (and the very real cost)
    on 28 July 2011 at 12:33 am


    “you appear to be confused by your own arguments” well, I don’t think so. ‘Less spending’, like ‘savings’ is just semantics. A cut’s a cut.

    “even though the annual deficit is coming down” – unless I’ve been reading the wrong things, it isn’t. If growth continues to fall behind the government’s projections, it will increase.

    I’m saying that austerity isn’t succeeding in bringing down deficits: this is hardly a new argument.

    Borrowing more would be difficult, but it’s hardly impossible; the interest on UK sovereign borrowing isn’t bad by international standards.

    A lengthening of the paydown time to 7, 10, 12, 15 years, combined with a well-designed stimulus before the end of this year seems sensible to me.

    Make the savings from gradual efficiencies and wastage over a long period of time, wind up unnecessary wars, redesign the tax system to combat tax evasion and make some sort of dent on inequality, and invest to grow.

    This’ll lead to market grumbling and a higher rate of interest, but the UK isn’t, wasn’t and shouldn’t be in any serious danger of a default. Most UK debt is held here by big, institutional investors, who have little to gain from playing around with sovereign-baiting chicanery.

    I don’t dispute that the money needs to be repaid: the decision to repay it over an arbitrary, relatively short period of time (one parliament) is playing politics with the economy. I’m not cribbing that it’s difficult; I’m pointing out that the current strategy is self-defeating.

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  12. Comment on The politics of unreality (and the very real cost)
    on 27 July 2011 at 8:18 pm

    I think it might be better if I leave that blizzard of tetchy pomposity to undermine itself, Alias.

    “Government debt is the result of a government decision to borrow money, child”…

    I know, aul boy!

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  13. Comment on The politics of unreality (and the very real cost)
    on 27 July 2011 at 6:39 pm

    Alanbrooke -

    “you appear to be in that category of people who believe what the government says”, as I attack its economic strategy? And say they’re not living in the real world?

    The OBR has been shown to be over-optimistic over and over since its inception, but still says private borrowing will go up. If you believe it’s deliberately playing those figures down (which I’d also be inclined to believe, and I think that’s what you’re saying, as increased personal borrowing is bad news…), then that actually reinforces my argument, and further undermines yours.

    “increasingly the only game in town” – but it’s leading to INCREASED borrowing. What do you say to that?

    “If you want to see what the 1930s were like put those sums down to zero and then see what happens” ….yes, this is what the government is looking to achieve…and it seems to be failing…

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  14. Comment on The politics of unreality (and the very real cost)
    on 27 July 2011 at 2:00 pm

    Alias; my ‘tripe’ was ironic, your tripe sadly isn’t. I think I was tickled by your paranoid ranting about governments; go back and hug your copy of the Fountainhead.

    “Spiralling government debt and impending bankrupcy is the evidence of what governments are capable of, my fickle Keynesian friend.”

    And the financial crash didn’t happen, did it? That’s not even a part cause of all this mess?

    And if it is, it was, I bet it was the fault of all dem pesky guvmint reggerletters? More market freedoms would have been just the ticket, eh?

    Alanbrooke; continue to ignore the actual evidence if you must.

    “Consumers have to go on a debt diet and yes that means pain, come to terms with it.”

    Read my first response; the Osborne cuts program is built on even higher personal borrowing than now. I think you’re into sadofiscalism, not addressing the actual issues.

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  15. Comment on The politics of unreality (and the very real cost)
    on 27 July 2011 at 3:09 am

    Why feed the silly Randian trolls?

    You’ve got a fundamentally different view of what governments are capable of, the relative permanence of money, what constitutes ‘real’ wealth, etc etc etc. We won’t meet in the middle, and one of us won’t ‘win’.

    Just promise not to harangue the next nurse, fireman or binman you come across, as they gormlessly squander ‘real’ money ‘created’ by prime movers elsewhere, the fools.

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  16. Comment on The politics of unreality (and the very real cost)
    on 27 July 2011 at 1:42 am

    Alias –

    If you can’t tell the difference between monetary and fiscal policy, and really believe that “We wouldn’t be in this mess if Keynesians didn’t get us into it”, there’s little sense in entering into a debate.

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  17. Comment on The politics of unreality (and the very real cost)
    on 26 July 2011 at 10:38 pm

    Alias, this article deals with expansionist fiscal policy, not monetary policy. Two different arguments.

    “These European economies have enjoyed a decade of growth based on spending borrowed money so their economies adjusted to that practice and switched from wealth-creating industry to supplying the goods and services for which the easy money created the demand.”

    It’s possible to have deficit-financed stimulus that creates lasting, productive wealth, not just simple demand.

    New railways, bridges, directly-financed renewable energy component works, telecommunications upgrades etc etc could increase competitiveness, future productive turnover and tax revenue. Stimulus needn’t be a simple subsidy for unsustainable consumer spending, if it’s designed and implemented correctly.

    Of course that would take thoughtful, courageous leadership.

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  18. Comment on The politics of unreality (and the very real cost)
    on 26 July 2011 at 8:26 pm

    “So why would you expect there to be a surge of demand ?”

    Well…I don’t: you’ve sort of missed the point there, Field Marshal.

    An aggressive cuts strategy isn’t helping to get debt ‘under control’ – if growth remains weak, borrowing (and of course debt) will continue to increase. This is what’s happening right now.

    Furthermore, the OBR has (very quietly) admitted that personal debt will have to rise quite dramatically if the Chancellor’s growth plans are going to come good. (

    So you’re getting a bit muddled on political action to counter private and public debt simultaneously.

    Sensible deficit spending could stimulate enough demand to get a higher rate of growth, meaning more people in work, more people paying more in taxes, etc.

    Money for stimulus could even come from better-levied property taxes, CGT rising to match income tax, restoring the bonus tax, etc etc

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